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I mentioned in this post that Southwest Airlines really changed their frequent flier program earlier this year. In this case for most families, change = messed it all up. They went from a very simple and fabulous system where one flight = one credit and 16 credits = a round-trip flight anywhere in the US that they flew. Very simple and my family flew many free flights thanks to that system, including our most recent trip to Disney World.
Some smarty pants must have decided that the system was too good and so it is now completely redesigned. In all fairness, if you are a frequent business traveler who often flies on more expensive fares then the new system actually might be better for you. Of course, if your spouse falls into that category than your whole family could benefit from this revamped system. For the rest of us, it’s going to be a little harder to make it to that free flight……but, that does not mean it is impossible!
The system is now based entirely on points. You earn 6 points per dollars spent on their cheapest Wanna Get Away fare, 10 points per dollar on their Anytime fare, and 12 points per dollar on their Business Select fare.
Here’s two simple examples. For the family traveler let’s say you bought a $200 round-trip flight to fly on a Wanna Get Away fare, you would then earn 1200 points for your trip. If you were a business traveler who bought a $350 ticket to go to a meeting on a Business Select fare you would earn 4200 points for your trip. Of course, anyone can buy a Business Select ticket, but they are often way more expensive than Wanna Get Away fares. They do come with certain perks and are available “last minute”, so they work out great when you are flying on an expense account. Not so great on a family budget. This quick example shows how much faster the points rack up for business travelers as opposed to leisure travelers.
The system isn’t totally against budget fliers though, there is one silver lining. The silver lining is that when you redeem points for flights, it is also based on a tiered point system. So, if you want to redeem for a low cost Wanna Get Away fare, it’s going to cost you far fewer points than a last minute Anytime or Business Select fare. When you are ready to redeem for a free flight you will need 60 points per dollar of the flight you want to buy if you want a Wanna Get Away fare, 100 points per dollar is you want an Anytime fare, and 120 points per dollar to snag a Business Select fare.
Here’s another quick math demonstration: If you want to use points to get that $200 Wanna Get Away fare, you will need 12,000 points. If you want to use points to get the $350 Business Select ticket, you would need a whopping 42,000 points! The system clearly rewards those who spend a lot on last minute fares, and those who plan in advance and redeem for cheap fares. If you can do that, this system will work pretty well for your family!
If you love Southwest then you can bump up your points total significantly by using their credit cards and dining program. In fact, as far as credit card program go, this one is actually pretty good at getting you towards free travel quickly.